Today was a cool, sunny day as we headed into Winnipeg to visit the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. As we pulled into the parking lot full of anticipation (it is an awesome looking building), our eyes fell on a small sign: Closed January 4-11. Great. My friend from Nova Scotia leaves on the 11th. So no museum this trip.
Luckily the Forks are right there. The Forks, where two rivers meet. The Assinaboine and the Red. As explained in Wikipedia:
The Forks is a historic site, meeting place and green space in Downtown Winnipeg located at the confluence of the Red River and Assiniboine River. For at least 6000 years, the Forks has been the meeting place for early Aboriginal peoples, and since colonization has also been a meeting place for European fur traders, Métis buffalo hunters, Scottish settlers, riverboat workers, railway pioneers and tens of thousands of immigrants.
The Forks was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1974 due to its status as a cultural landscape that had borne witness to six thousand years of human activity. The site’s 5.5-hectare (14-acre; 0.021 sq mi) grounds are open year-round.
6,000 years ago Edit
Numerous archaeological digs have shown that early Aboriginal groups arrived at The Forks site around 6,000 years ago. The digs conducted between 1989 and 1994 discovered several Aboriginal camps. Artifacts related to the bison hunt and fishing were unearthed. Evidence showed that Nakoda (Assiniboins), Cree, Anishinaabe (Ojibwa) and Sioux (Dakota) visited the site. Seasonal migration routes from northern forests to southern plains featured the Forks area as a rest stop, and the location became a key transcontinental trade link.
The Assiniboine River has followed its modern course for approximately 700 years. The Assiniboine River formerly met the Red River near the present-day mouth of the LaSalle River.
European fur traders arrived at the site and initiated trade with the local peoples, using the Assiniboine people as fur trade middlemen.
Europeans arrived by canoe in 1738. La Vérendrye erected Fort Rouge, the first of a long line of forts and trading posts erected in the area. The Red River Colony and the forts were all established near The Forks. The area remained the hub of the fur trade up until the 1880s. At that time, grain production became Western Canada’s principal industry and the main transportation for that industry was rail rather than waterways.
During the smallpox epidemics of 1781–1782, over half of the area’s aboriginal population died. At this time over 1,000 Aboriginal men, women, and children were buried in The Old Aboriginal Graveyard at The Forks.
From 1760 to 1821, the Hudson’s Bay Company and North West Company competed for furs. Both companies used The Forks to store and ship supplies and furs. By 1821, competing fur companies were amalgamated into the Hudson’s Bay Company.
The rail yards of the Northern Pacific and Manitoba Railway Company, the Canadian Northern, the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad and the Canadian National Railway were dominant facets of the Forks site, and this era is responsible for some of the buildings still standing at The Forks.
The Forks Market was formed by joining together the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway stable and the Great Northern Railway stable and Johnston Terminal was originally known as the National Cartage Building.
The Manitoba Children’s Museum is housed in what used to be the Northern Pacific and Manitoba Railway Company’s Buildings and Bridges (B & B) Buildings. Union Station is still in operation.
Across the Prairies the Canadian government began actively promoting immigration, settlement and railway development in the late 1800s. The Canadian government erected two immigration sheds at The Forks, each accommodating up to 500 people.
The Forks Today Edit
View of The Forks and construction of the Canadian Museum For Human Rights to the left.
The Forks now contains public space for celebrations and recreation, an interpretive park, revitalized historic and new buildings containing shops and restaurants, as well as a skateboard park and historic port. The Forks attracts over four million visitors each year.[3